Travel back to 1959, Knoxville, Tennessee. The United States Department of Defense recruited Alpha Industries to revamp its military jacket.
As the jet age took flight to greater heights and ground troops encountered trickier terrain, the technological needs and real-life demands of our soldiers changed. Simply put, but not simply achieved, Alpha reengineered outdated designs. As better fabrics were developed and tested, Alpha made better jackets for the troops – better designed, better produced, and more reliable. Alpha garments were ranked as warmer, more comfortable, more durable and designed to meet any climatic challenge.
Thus, for many decades the DOD awarded contracts to Alpha to manufacture outerwear to protect Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps personnel. Since the mid-1960’s Alpha has continuously manufactured the M-65 Field Jacket, and we’ve produced virtually every MA-1 Flight Jacket used by US Air Force, Army and Navy pilots. All told, Alpha Industries has produced over 40 million pieces of military outerwear to perform under the most severe conditions imaginable.
Three Bars Make All the Difference
When Alpha received a military contract and that contract was fulfilled, “surplus” materials were always left over. In order to use these materials and keep our factories operating, we continued to make jackets following the strict military specifications. These additional jackets were sold to surplus stores. But, for internal purposes we needed to develop a way to separate these jackets from the ones that were actually going to the military.
On jackets shipping to the military the label contained a single black bar separating the identification of the type of jacket and its specifications. We developed a replacement label to be used for surplus jackets. The only difference between this and the actual military label was that we put three black bars instead of one. And, this label was the only difference between these surplus jackets and those that were actually to be worn by military servicemen. Other contractors also manufactured surplus coats, but they changed to lower grade materials using lighter fabric, thinner insulation, less durable zippers and fasteners. And they didn’t change the internal labels; their garments still had the single black bar. Over time, customers at surplus stores began to notice that the jackets with the three bars were the best. And no wonder; after all, these were the exact same jackets that American pilots and ground crews were wearing at bases around the world. In fact, if you look closely at the Alpha logo, you’ll see that we integrated these three bars into the mark that has come to symbolize our company and its products.
Years of manufacturing for the military and selling surplus paved the road for a smooth transition into the commercial fashion market. At the street level, Alpha was known as the producer of iconic military jackets worn by soldiers who faced extreme danger and harsh conditions.
These products emerged into popular culture and the fashion world because Alpha’s quality and manufacturing expertise had to be superior. And soon enough Alpha became a distinct fashion brand worldwide, with recognition in American and in major international markets in Europe and Asia.
Alpha sets standard as a leader in cutting-edge apparel design. From flight decks to civilian sidewalks, Alpha stands on the frontlines of quality and fashion. Alpha is tried, tested and proven, and will remain part of the American Culture and is now available in South Africa!